Environmental surveillance during an outbreak of tularaemia in hares, the Netherlands, 2015

Janse, Ingmar; Maas, M.; Rijks, J.M.; Koene, M.; van der Plaats, R.Q.; Engelsma, M.; Tas, P.W.L.; Braks, M.; Stroo, A.; Notermans, D.W.; de Vries, M.C.; Reubsaet, F.A.G.; Fanoy, E.; Swaan, C.M.; Kik, M.J.; Ijzer, J.; Jaarsma, R.I.; van Wieren, S.; de Roda Husman, A.M.; van Passel, M.; Roest, H.; van der Giessen, J.


Tularaemia, a disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis, is a re-emerging zoonosis in the Netherlands. After sporadic human and hare cases occurred in the period 2011 to 2014, a cluster of F. tularensis-infected hares was recognised in a region in the north of the Netherlands from February to May 2015. No human cases were identified, including after active case finding. Presence of F. tularensis was investigated in potential reservoirs and transmission routes, including common voles, arthropod vectors and surface waters. F. tularensis was not detected in common voles, mosquito larvae or adults, tabanids or ticks. However, the bacterium was detected in water and sediment samples collected in a limited geographical area where infected hares had also been found. These results demonstrate that water monitoring could provide valuable information regarding F. tularensis spread and persistence, and should be used in addition to disease surveillance in wildlife.